The terrifying yet exhilarating photo shoot I undertook in an effort to portray myself in a new light while attempting to embody even one iota of Prince’s mysterious persona was life-changing for many reasons. Mainly, it was so crazily out of character that it couldn’t help but change the way I felt. And, the photo session birthed my badass and mysterious alter ego — a side of myself that I’m cultivating this month, in the same way that Prince allowed himself to explore alter egos throughout his career.
When I returned home, still sporting my big Sheena Easton-style hair and dramatic 80s makeup, my husband and two teenage sons were waiting for me in the family room, because we were going to celebrate my birthday that night. Of course, I was late (what photo shoot ever operates on time?). The stunned looks on their faces were priceless! I hadn’t realized how different I looked until I saw it reflected in their faces. They nearly fell off the couch when I shot them a look that approximated this:Embed from Getty Images
Family, meet the Alter Ego. Ha! That was fun. Realizing that I had at least approximated, if not mastered, the sly, Bambi-eyed glances of Prince for the camera, I decided to push the experiment to its logical conclusion by test-driving the Princely glance into real-life situations and everyday people. Yes, I dipped my toes into everyday-life-Prince-posing, in the interest of science. Over the next few days, when out in public, I did my best imitation of the head-tilted-down, eyes-looking-up, slyly smiling (no teeth! never any teeth!) Princely glance. I tried it while leaning against the back of an elevator in New York City, standing in the line at the post office and sitting in the airport waiting for my flight. I pretended I had a secret that was not only mysterious but amusing and that I was committed to slyly keeping the joke to myself while inwardly laughing at the fools around me who were sadly, not in on the joke.
What surprised me was that people noticed.
People immediately clued into the fact that something out of the ordinary was afoot. And that’s saying something in the New York City elevator, as no one in New York is “normal” (I mean that in the very best of ways). People would glance my way in an effort to read me. Then they would glance again. I had become an enigma! This was a thrilling development.
It was surprising how behaving this way shifted the attention in the space from whatever normal interaction was going on — be it conversations between colleagues in an elevator or talking on a cell phone in line at the post office — to me. I’m not someone who others normally have to struggle to figure out. The Princely posing turned out to be a brilliantly effective and stealthy way of shifting power to myself. And it was a huge “aha” moment when it came to Prince. Walking into a conference room of music industry executives and deploying his Princely mystique wasn’t a case of “that’s just how Prince is.” Oh no. Prince was far more strategic than that. Princely posing was a weapon he wielded to get what he wanted.
Ain’t nothing wrong with that.